Lawrence County Board of Health Adopts Resolution for Harm Reduction Syringe Exchange Program to Prevent Spread of Hepatitis C Virus
December 9, 2016
The Lawrence County Health Department is planning a Harm Reduction Syringe Exchange Program to prevent the further spread of Hepatitis C in the county. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Kentucky has the highest rate of Hepatitis C in the nation at 4.0 per every 100,000 people, nearly seven times the national average. Hepatitis C is primarily spread through the sharing of needles and equipment for injection drug use. Health Department Director Debbie Miller said that this became a concern for the health department because as a public health agency the health department is required to detect, prevent and control communicable diseases.
The objectives of the program are to reduce transmission of infections spread by injection drug use by providing new, sterile needles in exchange for contaminated needles; to reduce the amount of contaminated needles improperly discarded in the community by providing sharps containers for proper disposal; and to act as an access point for individuals to obtain connections for treatment for substance abuse, health care, counseling and other services. Lawrence County Health Department Nursing Supervisor Shirley DeLong said, “A harm reduction program is a tool used to prevent the spread of disease that also provides an opportunity to educate participants and link them with other services such as testing, treatment and recovery.”
Lawrence County, along with 54 other Kentucky counties, was recently identified by the CDC as one of 220 U.S. counties vulnerable to the rapid spread of Hepatitis C and HIV among injecting drug users based on factors such as pharmacy sales of prescription painkillers, overdose deaths and rates of unemployment. “This was a call to action for the health department. Our ultimate goal is to prevent drug use and help people get into treatment, but we aren’t there yet. In the meantime, we must try to keep Lawrence County residents as safe as possible,” Miller said.
The Lawrence County Board of Health has adopted a resolution to develop and implement the program. The health department is still seeking approval from the Louisa City Council and the Lawrence County Fiscal Court in accordance with KRS 218A.500. There are currently 14 Harm Reduction Syringe Exchange Programs operating in Kentucky with an additional nine approved to open at a future date.
For more information on Hepatitis C Virus, substance abuse and harm reduction, visit:
Lawrence County Health Department is located at 1080 Meadowbrook Lane, Louisa, KY 41230. Visit our website at www.lawrencecountyhealthdepartment.com or find us on Facebook.
Contact: Debbie Miller